There’s hope among competitive anglers that fishing tournaments will resume soon at Beaver Lake.
Tournament groups called off recent contests after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers canceled special event permits required to hold tournaments at Corps parks on Beaver Lake. The Corps plans to evaluate the situation in mid-April.
Beaver Lake Elite Series, Northwest Arkansas Team Trail, NWA Castmasters, Beaver Lake Crappie Association and smaller groups have canceled tournaments.
That doesn’t mean entire seasons are scrapped. James Whittle, director of the Beaver Lake Elite Series, said the group’s April 11 and May 2 bass tournaments are canceled. He hopes these two contests can be rescheduled and that the rest of this season’s tournaments will go on.
Anglers who like to compete are still putting a little cash on the line, said Nicky Parson, one of the top tournament bass anglers at Beaver.
Fishermen can still get together, toss some folding money in the hat, and see who comes back with the best catch. Jackpot tournaments, anglers call them.
“Some of that is already going on now,” Parson said. “There may not be tournaments, but they’re still going to fish.”
Most jackpots are small enough they don’t need to take place out of a Corps park. The Arkansas 12 bridge launch ramp is a popular spot for jackpot events.
Anglers have always made friendly wagers to spice up their outings with a cash prize for the biggest fish, most fish, even littlest fish. Contests among friends go on, sort of like pickup basketball games.
Tournament organizers are wholeheartedly behind health and safety concerns for the fishermen. The timing is unfortunate, said Johnny Brewer, director of NWA Cast Masters. Spring brings good fishing.
“As of right now, our next two tournaments are canceled for sure, maybe more if the Corps decides to push dates out farther after looking at the situation in mid-April,” Brewer said by email.
“We hope to reschedule some of these missed tournaments. It really stinks because we will be missing some of the best fishing of the year, but we need to make sure everyone is safe and healthy.
“This will give the fish a break, too, because they get hammered with so many tournaments anymore,” he said.
Beaver Lake Crappie Association has also canceled some tournaments as mandated by the Corps.
“We will stand and support their efforts to help with the coronavirus,” says a message on its Facebook page. “We as a board will get together and come up with a new schedule and championship.”
Health concerns have affected contests from youth tournaments all the way to fishing’s major leagues. Professional circuits like Bassmaster and Fishing League Worldwide have canceled events around the nation.
Pro angler Harvey Horne of Bella Vista competes on the Bassmaster Elite Series. For him, lost tournaments are lost income.
“The way the payout is set up, everyone gets a check no matter how you finish,” Horne said. He has missed two checks so far.
On the plus side, Horne said he relishes spending more time with his family and fishing with friends. Some down time also gives him a chance to practice techniques on the water to prepare for Bassmaster tournaments that hopefully will take place later this season.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com